Renters struggling during the pandemic could get help in keeping evictions off their credit records under legislation introduced in Congress by Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz.
The move to protect tenants from long-term financial problems related to evictions is supported by many housing advocates.
H.R. 1594, the COVID-19 Eviction Consumer Report Fairness Act, would require all credit reporting groups to exclude from consumer credit reports evictions, any information related to evictions, or any proceedings seeking evictions, between March 13, 2020, until 120 days after President Joe Biden terminates the national emergency.
“Without this important relief for renters, our credit reporting system could continue to needlessly punish hardworking families for years to come,” Stanton said about the bill, which was introduced Thursday. “When you’re at your lowest, unsure if you’re able to keep a roof over your family’s head, you likely aren’t considering the long-term impact of an eviction on your personal credit.”
The National Housing Law Project, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Southwest Fair Housing Council and Community Legal Services of Arizona support the legislation, which would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act
In Arizona, at least 200,000 households are at risk of eviction, according to a November 2020 report from the University of Arizona Innovation for Justice program and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
About $492 million in renters aid from the December 2020 stimulus package is expected to start getting out to Arizona tenants and landlords next week.
Nationally, between 6.6 million and 9.5 million households are at risk of eviction.
“With loss of employment (during the pandemic), families are looking to find alternative cheaper but decent housing,” said Pamela Bridge, director of litigation and advocacy at Community Legal Services of Arizona. "However, once an (eviction) judgment is on a family's credit history, they now have a barrier to any other adequate housing. They are stuck.
“They cannot continue to pay the rent of their current landlord, and their credit now prohibits them from finding cheaper, safe housing,” she said.
The CARES Act included credit reporting protections for late credit-card and car loan payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. But late rent payments weren’t included.
The legislation is limited to evictions during the pandemic.
“This (legislation) will limit damage to renters and ensure the COVID crisis does not limit housing choices in the future,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project.